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CONFERENCE NEWS (CIC 2010): New study shows shops fail to take proper waterborne paint precautions

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CHICAGO, July 21, 2010—Collision repair shops throughout the United States are not taking proper precautions when spraying waterborne paint, according to a study presented during the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) board of directors meeting Tuesday.

Fresh air respirators are required for spray painting in an automotive paint booth. Yet only 50 percent of shops in Oregon comply while spraying waterborne paint, reported Paul Val, member of the SCRS board of directors. In Arizona, only 30 percent of shops use fresh air respirators, and just 2 percent of Oklahoma shops do.

Among shops that do comply, many aren’t using the fresh air respirators properly. Filters, cartridges and canisters on the respirator system are used longer than recommended, and often aren’t properly stored, Val said. That poses a real risk to human and environmental health.

“There’s a lot of presumption that it’s OK to breathe waterborne paint because you can’t smell the hazardous materials,” Val said. “There’s a lack of training and a lack of education among repairers regarding waterborne paint.”

Waterborne paint contains isocyanates, a hazardous material that can be breathed, swallowed and absorbed through skin.

In Oklahoma, many shops spraying waterborne paint have switched to using paint booths only for clearcoat applications, Val said, while waterborne paint is sprayed out in the open, on the production floor. The perception is that there is no volatile chemistry in the waterborne product.

Waterborne paints do contain much lower levels of organic solvents and are less toxic than solvent-based paints. But paint manufacturers say automotive paints should always be used with proper control technologies and protective equipment to minimize emissions of air toxins and prevent respiratory, eye and dermal exposures, according to Val.

For more information, go to epa.gov/dfe.

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